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The Lot I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of At Last, An Honest Answering Device

Last week I was gob smacked by the picture MH sent me of our answering machine’s display of a caller ID (for the phone call he missed):

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Just Where My Mind Goes

My first thought upon reading the following review  [1] excerpt: The film isn’t circumcised?

New York Times Critics’ Pick!
An uncut gem of a movie…..

*   *   *
Department Of No, I Can’t Just Leave It Alone

Whaddya mean, I’ve never told you my favorite circumcision jokes?

Q. What did the receptionist say to the patient waiting in the circumcisionist’s office?
A. “It won’t be long now.”

Q. How much does a circumcisionist earn?
A. One hundred dollars an hour, plus tips.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of unkind cuts…what a convenient segue to

 

 

Department Of Name Dropping And Saint Shaming

Mother Teresa’s work was part of a global enterprise for the alleviation of bourgeois guilt, rather than a genuine challenge to those forces that produce and maintain poverty.
(“Mother Teresa as the Mirror of Bourgeois Guilt,”
Indian journalist/historian Vijay Prashad )

The following rant thoughtful explication was prompted by a recent comment I overheard, which I list in the paragraph after the warning.

(Consider yourself warned.)

Should you ever attempted to deflect a commendation (within earshot of moiself ) regarding an act of generosity or kindness on your part  by using the intended-to-be humble qualifier, “Well, I’m no Mother Teresa…”, brace yourself for my rejoinder:

“Yes, but Mother Teresa was, in fact, ‘no Mother Teresa.’ ”   [2]

The first time I recall doing this was at least fifteen years ago, during the book study group I attended at a UCC church (where we the still-closeted atheists – MH and I – were active members). I cannot recall the book under discussion nor the particular comment which elicited a fellow book group member’s poorly-timed, Well, I’m no Mother Teresa….

“Poorly-timed” translation:  I’d been reading up on Mother Teresa, having come across criticism from liberal Catholics regarding MT’s entry into what amounted to the RC church’s “Ten Items or Fewer” saint checkout line.  [3]  In doing so I’d encountered a surprising number of informed and rational voices – from British journalist Christopher Hitchens to Australian academic and social critic Germaine Greer [4] to Indian physicians and activists and others. These voices had dared to question –  and more importantly, to examine – MT’s previously unexamined reputation as a humble, selfless humanitarian devoted to the poor.  And I began to share some of my “encounters” with the book group.

Pity that unfortunate I’m-no-Mother-Teresa comment-dude…. I did later apologize to him   [5]  for getting the group “off track.” (And the always tolerant and circumspect book group leader practically left skidmarks getting us “back to the subject at hand.”)

 

 

As per the name-dropping: In October 2007 I attended the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s annual convention, held that year in Madison, WI. Christopher Hitchens, one of the featured speakers, gave a rousing speech for his acceptance of the FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes Award   [6].  Later that evening, a New Friend I Met At The Convention ® and I went to the hotel bar/cafe, to discuss the day’s events over wine and a tasty hummus platter.   [7]  There were no tables available, so NFIMATV and I took a seat at the bar.  NFIMATV noticed that Mr. Hitchens was seated at the end of the bar, a mere six barstools down from us, and decided we should commend him re his speech.

Although never averse to chatting up strangers, I was reluctant to “pester” someone who was…well, a celebrity of sorts.  I reminded NFIMATV of Hitchens’ reputation for not suffering fools;  [8]  also, he’d just spoken in front of hundreds of people and might want to simply unwind and sip his drink….

NFIMATV would have none of my protestations. “He came to a crowded, public place! If he wanted to be left alone he’d have gone up to his suite and ordered room service.” She grabbed my arm and literally dragged me down to the end of the bar.

NFIMATV briefly introduced herself and I to Hitch, and complimented him on his speech. Moiself said WTF to moiself, and then aloud to Hitch: “I thought you might appreciate knowing that you’ve been quoted…uh, by me…in a church book study group, when someone said the usual obsequious nonsense about Mother Teresa.”

Hitch winked at me, replied, “Indeed,” and raised his whiskey glass in a toast. Then it was my turn to be the arm-grabber as I led NFIMATV back to our end of the bar.

This ends the name-dropping portion of our programming.

 

 

 

 

“I just thought that this myth [re Mother Teresa and the Catholic charities providing compassionate care in the slums of India] had to be challenged”….
Over hundreds of hours of research, much of it cataloged in a book he published in 2003, Dr. Chatterjee said he found a “cult of suffering” in homes run by Mother Teresa’s organization, the Missionaries of Charity, with children tied to beds and little to comfort dying patients but aspirin.
He and others said that Mother Teresa took her adherence to frugality and simplicity in her work to extremes, allowing practices like the reuse of hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another.
(from “A Critic’s Lonely Quest: Revealing the Whole Truth About Mother Teresa,
NY Times profile of Dr. Aroup Chaterjee )

It is highly likely that what you “know,” and what most people think they know, about MT comes from a book about her  [9] – and the media coverage about the celebrity visits to MT’s clinics, which followed publication of the book – written by Malcolm Muggeridge.  Muggeridge, a zealous Roman Catholic convert and conservative British social commenter, was derided by  Christopher Hitchens as “that old fraud and mountebank.” Hitchens largely credited Muggeridge for providing the propaganda tool which spawned MT’s becoming “the focus of a fawning cult who used the suffering of the poor for her own political and ideological ends.”

 

 

 

 

Christopher Hitchens was MT’s most vocal – but by no means only –  detractor.  He described her as a “thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf,” and charged that the missions she ran in Calcutta were humanitarian humbugs serving as a masquerade for her “cult of death and suffering.”  What Hitch did by investigating MT and her work is what any good journalist – and citizen – should do, and yet because he was one of the first to do so he was considered radical and contrarian when he was in fact being sensible and straightforward: he judged Mother Theresa‘s reputation by her words and actions.  What was being promoted by the myth makers, saint manufacturers was the opposite – they wanted you to judge MT’s words and actions by her reputation.

Okay, perspective timeout. If you’re interested in this subject, or just perplexed because this is the first time you’ve heard about the MT controversy, you can find much more information than the crumbs I offer in this space.  There have been books, articles, even a documentary  [10] on the subject, by writers and investigators far more experienced and eloquent then moiself.  If you find your defensive hackles rising at the mere thought of criticizine a “saint”–  if you prefer the PR to reality – it’s likely you won’t be convinced by the evidence, no matter the source.

Evidence – and her own words – show that Mother Teresa was not so much a “champion of the poor” but a religious fanatic who took pleasure in their suffering. Not only did she refuse to alleviate the pain of her patients but she gloried in it. As she herself said: “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”
(“Mother Teresa ‘a friend of poverty, not of the poor,” Carol Hunt, independent.ie)

Here’s the main point, which I think cannot be overemphasized:  Mother Teresa did not love the poor and the afflicted; she was in love with poverty and affliction. The difference is astronomically crucial, particularly in understanding her motivation – which is most adamantly not an excuse – for the way she treated her patients and ran her organization.

Did she see the Calcutta slum dwellers for who and what they were, and respect them as (non-Catholic) individuals? Or did she see them as mere objects sharing a “lot” she considered to be some kind of blessed condition bestowed by her deity?

People who are in fact poor and genuinely suffering do not idealize their misery. The destitute want to rise out of poverty, and the afflicted want to get well. To think (and act) otherwise about their situations is patronizing, not compassionate.

 

Is it time for some kind of cute picture to relieve the tension?

 

A summary of the reality behind the Mother Teresa mythos:

* Critics have pointed out a host of ways in which MT’s mission of mercy was not all that it seemed, including but not limited to her shady ways of caring for the sick, her problematic political contacts, her irregular management of the vast sums of money she received, and her harsh, dogmatic views on social and cultural issues.  Examples include:

* Doctors and journalists who visited MT’s clinics accused her of perpetuating the suffering of destitute patients by not giving them easily obtainable painkillers and by having the dying spend their final weeks on wooden pallets in communal dormitories, fed only on boiled rice and water;

* Families who took their loved ones to MT’s clinics to receive care for, e.g., a broken leg, complained that their loved ones were treated as if they were dying (i.e., given only hospice-type care and not transferred or referred to another, actual medical clinic) and thus did die, from lack of treatment of totally non-lethal, treatable ailments.  [11]  Meanwhile, MT herself traveled out of the country to California clinics when she got sick and required treatment.

* Several visitors who traveled to see MT’s Calcutta clinic, impressed by the mission to help the poor but appalled by the clinic’s primitive conditions and lack of supplies, made substantial donations to MT’s order (“The Sisters of Charity”) for the express purpose of updating and supplying the clinic. When these donors returned months or years later to see what their monies had wrought, they were shocked to find the clinic was as rundown as it had always been (and MT’s order refused to publish any audit of its funds).  Meanwhile, MT’s order was opening religious schools around the world – by MT’s own claim she opened 500 convents in more than one hundred countries – most of them bearing her name.  [12]

* Germaine Greer called MT a “religious imperialist” bent on evangelism,” and Indian human rights activists accused MT of a covert agenda – trying to convert the poor to Christianity, under the guise of treating the sick. Witnesses observed MT and her staff performing the Catholic rite of baptism upon dying and delusional non-Christian patients while pretending to cool the patients’ heads with wet cloths.

* MT accepted donations from – and provided photo ops for – sleazy public figures who gave her donations –  including the brutal Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier (whom she praised in return), the disgraced British publisher Robert Maxwell, and the thieving American banker, Charles Keating (remember the S & Loan crisis?) – while refusing to comment upon (or claiming ignorance about) their atrocious human rights violations.

This last * is particularly galling to me, because if you can for some reason excuse the other criticisms of MT, how can you justify, other than for brazen $$ interests, her cozying up to such horrible people and regimes? Do you know about her astonishing personal involvement in the prosecution of Charles Keating?

MT wrote a letter, on behalf of Keating to the judge who tried Keating’s case, asking for mercy and leniency in Keaton’s sentencing…despite claiming in the letter to know nothing about his business nor the criminal charges levied against him. The Deputy DA who worked on the prosecution of Keating wrote an eloquent letter back to MT, detailing the charges against Keating and the sources of the money that Keating had donated to MT, thus providing, as Hitchens put it, the “clearest and best-documented proof against the customary apologies about (MT’s supposed) innocence and unworldliness.”

The DA was so appalled by MT’s efforts on behalf of her benefactor  – and her seeming lack of concern for those Keating had swindled – that he allowed Hitchens to print his response to MT in its entirety, in Hitchen’s MT expose, The Missionary Position.  An excerpt from his letter:

“The victims of Mr. Keating’s fraud come from a wide spectrum of society. Some were wealthy and well-educated. Most were people of modest means and unfamiliar with high finance. One was, indeed, a poor carpenter who did not speak English and had his life saving’s stolen by Mr. Keating’s fraud….

You urged (the judge) to look into his heart – as he sentences Charles Keating – and do what Jesus would do. I submit the same challenge to you. Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were given the fruits of a crime; what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what Jesus would do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience?

I submit that Jesus would promptly and unhesitatingly return the stolen property to its rightful owners. You should do the same. You have been given money by Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the “indulgence”  [13]  he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it.

If you contact me I will put you indirect contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession.”

Mother Teresa neither replied to the letter nor returned the money.

*   *   *

May you always judge the reputation by the deeds, and not vice-versa;
May you always be able to provide an accounting;
May you know (at least as per circumcision jokes) when to leave it alone;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] for the movie, We the Animals.

[2] And be relieved if I stop at the mere rejoinder and do not go into full lecture mode. 

[3] Bypassing traditional procedures for canonization, a move by Pope John Paul II which bothered many Catholics.

[4] Greer was once on the same airplane flight as MT, and noted that while she (Greer) rode in economy class, MT, who had taken a vow of poverty, rode in first class.  Greer had critiqued  MT and the Catholic charitable orders and their policies and politics before and after that plane ride, and infamously referred to MT as the “glamour girl of poverty” and MT’s Missionary order as an “order of clones.”

[5] And he later thanked me for bringing up a hitherto unknown (to him) perspective.

[6] An award bestowed by the FFRF, for public figures who use “plain speaking” on the shortcomings of religion.

[7]  We had to settle for stale pretzels. But the wine was nice.

[8] Which had been fully on display that evening during a Q & A session after his speech, when “Hitch” calmly, wittily, and effectively verbally eviscerated those who were less than prepared/articulate in framing their questions.

[9] Something Beautiful For God.

[10] “Hell’s Angel,” produced by Hitchens and journalist Tariq Ali. Hitchen’s research for this film, which first ran as a BBC television program in 1994, spurred him to write the book, The Missionary Position.

[11] And these poor families (who later spoke with journalists) told of how when they complained to the local  authorities, they were either disbelieved or hushed up, due to MT’s reputation.

[12] So much for her claims of modesty and humility.

[13] The purchase of “indulgences” (i.e.. buying one’s way to forgiveness)  was once an acceptable method of seeking forgiveness in the Catholic church. It was one of the theological abominations cited by Martin Luther which led to The Protestant reformation.

The New Rules I’m Not Explaining

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Departments of Youtoo and Which Lives Matter

I recently overheard snippets of a conversation between two (white) guys about the horrible burden placed upon them during the past couple of years. Alas, it seems that that they can no longer sling sexist and racist slurs with impunity “even joke” about “some stuff –  not only that, White Guy #1’s ____ (wife? girlfriend?)  [1]  objected when WG#1 defended a friend who’d publicly commented about the body of a female co-worker. White Guy #2 made some kind of commiseration grunt, and said he wished someone would explain the “new rules” (of such discourse, I assume) to him.

 

 

 

 

It was so difficult to restrain moiself, lemme tellya.

But it was dinner time, and there was a long line behind me in the 15 items or less checkout line, so I took WG#2’s rhetorical plea for explanation in the spirit it was likely intended, and held my tongue. However, if I’d had the time (and didn’t care if I were to be banned from shopping in that store, ever again), I might have said something like the following.

 

 

 

 

The key thing of it – the “it” here referring to that wonderful/prickly path we trod along with our comrade human beings, – is that to walk through this world as a decent friend, partner, citizen, or even bystander, you have to hold, and act on, two seemingly disparate or incongruous hypotheses:

(1) If you are male and your friend is female, *she* is the expert on what it’s like to be a woman in your culture. Your job is to listen to her when and if she feels comfortable enough to give an account and/or an analysis of her experiences, not to explain to her why it wasn’t really sexism or misogyny, either personal or systemic, when she tells you how

* she (as well as the only other woman who serves on the company advisory board) is repeatedly interrupted and “talked over” by male colleagues during meetings;

* her engineering project lab partner ridiculed and downplayed her ideas to their professor and then later presented them as his own;

* despite her reporting him to their manager, a fellow waiter persists in grabbing her ass when he sees her balancing a beverage tray on each hand;  [2]

*  she was not nominated for her party’s candidacy for County Commissioner, despite the fact that she was the most experienced potential candidate, and when she commented aloud on the historical disparity of women in said office a party fundraiser took her aside and told her that he could not effectively raise money for women candidates…

If you are a man and your friend/partner/neighbor/co-worker is a woman, she is the expert on being a woman. Not you.  If you want to be an ally – if you want to be One Of The Good Guys, ®  [3]  listen to her when she conveys her experiences. Then, hopefully and deliberately, you will strategize on How Not To Be Those Kinds Of Men, and  how to influence and support fellow menfolk to do likewise.

(2) Here is where the (perhaps greater) challenge comes in: although your woman friend is her own expert on being a woman, she is not The President of All Women. ®  Nor does she speak for all women. She may have hold diametrically opposed positions on certain personal and personal positions and have very different life experiences than, say, her female cousin, or the woman who cashiers at the supermarket. Still, all three of them – your friend, her cousin, and the cashier – are their own “experts” re navigating this world as a woman, while you are not.

 

 

Ignore this cranky Italian writer and keep on trying.

 

 

 

The same goes for your black co-worker, who is an expert on being black. Your job as a white friend or acquaintance or neighbor or co-worker is not to whitesplain to him –

when he relates his experience of being terrified, and later enraged, when, while driving his new BMW and committing no traffic infractions, he was pulled over and interrogated by a police officer who wondered why he was driving through that particular neighborhood

–  re why he saw prejudice where it didn’t exist, and how difficult it is to be a cop…

Your job is to listen, and to learn, if possible. He is the expert on what it means to be black in America, not you – even though, as per (2) above

*  your black co-worker does not speak for the mythical “Black Community,” and

* he may hold political opinions and have had experiences that are vastly different from those of, say, his uncle, who is a rabid Clarence Thomas supporter.

Ditto for your LGBTQ friends, if you are straight, for your atheist/humanist/religion-free friends if you are a religious believer, or for any other “oppressed” or “minority” group.  [4]

Whiteness/straightness/maleness/religiosity has controlled the microphone for a long, long time.  You may feel the pendulum is swinging too far to the other side.  Tough titties.  If it truly is, pendulums being what they are, it will eventually swing back.

Your task between swings is to listen and (fingers crossed) learn. You can disagree, of course, but try reflecting on what was said, maybe even overnight or – gasp, in this world where a six second gif of your brain exploding seems to long – for a few days or longer, before you share your disagreement. Try the proverbial walking in another person’s shoes; wait for a long…long…long time before responding. And consider whether any response (other than a change of heart and/or action) is actually necessary. Will your feedback truly be helpful?

 

 

 

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Department of Disclaimers

The previous harangue thoughtful exposition of compelling social issues was is in no way meant to be supportive two other controversial topics: (1) for fiction writers, the hideous admonition to, “write what you know,  and (2) the  warnings against so-called cultural appropriation.  I find both concepts, however “well-meaning” their champions may be,  [5] to be despicable – inaccurate at best and intellectually suppressive at worst – and moiself has commented  on such previously in this space.

 

 

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Department Of I Am So Not Making This Up

Wonder Bible Audio Player…the incredible bible that speaks! … Contains the  entire Old and New Testaments of the Bible in the King James Version.

 

 

 

Yet another commercial that I assumed was a Saturday Night Live parody, but which turned out to be deliciously real.

Simply turn on the Wonder Bible, and a pleasant voice reads the book to you.

The product description  material says that the Wonder Bible Audio Player contains skip and fast forward functions – tasks which comes in handy for any religion. For generations the “skip function” has been widely and successfully used by clerics (as well as their parishioners), who prefer to ignore the passages of their scriptures which champion violence,  genocide  misogyny, racism, sexual abuse, child abuse and other abominable/just plain bat shit crazy edicts and stories  [6] that populate the collection of bronze and iron age mythologies which have come to be known as the Old and New Testaments.  [7]

The road to atheism is littered with bibles that have been read cover to cover.
 ( Andrew Seidel, Civil Rights and Constitutional Law attorney,
Freedom From Religion Foundation )

Those of us happy heretics who know the bible better than most bible-believers can’t help but wonder how the “pleasant voice” narrating “the entire” Wonder Bible will handle such passages as

* “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 23:1)

* “Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse.” (1 Peter 2:18)

* “Behold with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods: And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day.” (II Chronicles 21:14-15)*

* “If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.” (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)

* ” And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying…Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or anything superfluous, Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; No man that hath a blemish…shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD…. ‘” (Leviticus 21:16-21)

 

 

Can’t wait to hear the pleasant voice tackle this one.

 

 

 

* “Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.” (Hosea 13:16 )

* “…Judah’s firstborn was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.  And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.”  (Genesis 38:7-9)

* “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12)

* “…they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males….and took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones….And they brought the captives…unto Moses….Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?  Behold, these caused the children of Israel…to commit trespass against the LORD….Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.  But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”  (Numbers 31:7-18)

* “For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses.” (Ezekiel 23:20)

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you judiciously monitor your own skip function;
May you save your pleasant voice for deserving stories;
May we all be One of The Good Guys ® ;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1]  I don’t know the relationship, only that the person was female.

[2] And if you use any variation of the dreadful boys will be boys excuse to downplay such incidents, she will be within her rights as a sentient being to Gorilla Glue a hornet’s nest to  your boys will be parts.

[3] And if you don’t, then please speak with Eion Musk‘s SpaceX team (or The Hemlock Society)  to arrange your earliest possible trip off of this planet.

[4] Even if you may have legitimate disagreements with those labels.

[5] Oh, how I shudder to hear that term, for when it’s applied it almost always is used to excuse some kind of verbal or procedural disaster (“She means well….”).

[6] (All supposedly “inspired” by their god(s) .

[7] Or, The Hebrew Scriptures, as the OT is sometimes referred to.

The Ring I’m Not Wearing

Comments Off on The Ring I’m Not Wearing

 

Last Friday when I started my car this dashboard warning light became illuminated:

 

 

It was a light I’d never noticed before – one that had never lit up in any of our previous vehicles. Given the graphic representation of the warning light, I figured it was alerting me to one of three possible scenarios:

*  WARNING!  Someone is about to throw a beach ball at your lap!

*  WARNING!  The car’s airbag may be malfunctioning!

*  WARNING!  You have unexpectedly become nine months pregnant!

It turned out to be a loose connection in the passenger airbag wiring – dust it off and tighten the connection. However, almost everything auto-repair wise is electronic these days, and the mechanics had to run their special diagnostics program to discover this simple solution to what could have been a complex problem.

The minimum charge to run the diagnostics program is $120. That’s a grrrrr-worthy charge, but much less than it would have cost to fix a faulty airbag. [1]  I decided to look on the bright side: such an expense is like a Kardashian – totally doable.

 

*   *   *

Department of Simple Pleasures [2]

I made a new friend this week! [3]

 

I’m aware that this kind of announcement is something you’d expect from a five year old reporting the excitement of her first day at kindergarten…or, perhaps, from an adult flustered by unexpected good-fortune.

 

 

 

Guess what? It’s still exciting when it happens to a Person Of A Certain Age and, IMHO, carries even more import.

Observation: By the time you reach your 40s -50s, they’ve (mostly) become established in careers, neighborhoods, and in their family and social lives. If you value your friendships and in turn want to be a valued friend, you spend time cultivating and maintaining those relationships. If you wish to add someone to your buddy circle, your desire to do so doesn’t change certain natural world realities, like the earth’s rotation cycle. That is, there are still only 24 hours to a day, and still only so much time for each and every thing.

 

 

I give that segue a 7 on a scale of 1 to meh.

 

 

Not to get carried away or over analyze the phenomenon, but I’ve heard others my age bemoan the difficulties of meeting new people and getting to know them past a certain surface level of acquaintance. [4]

Once again, I digress.

The new friendship came about via a letter I wrote to The Oregonian, in response to a letter in that same’s op-ed section written by yet another blithering willfully ignorant religious idiot a sincere but sincerely misinformed man who claimed that our constitutional “freedom to believe what we want to believe” is a “religious idea.”

The Oregonian’s editors ran my letter, which they titled The US Constitution Mentions No God, For Good Reason , in the 2-28-16 print edition, and also online. The next day I received an email from my Soon To Be New Friend, who wondered if I was the same Robyn Parnell who’d written that letter and if so…

I’m writing just to thank you for stating so lucidly and concisely what so many people do not seem to understand regarding what the U.S. Constitution has to say about religion and gods.

Awww, shucks. He had me at lucid and concise,  [5] and also when he went on to mention that I might be interested in the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization which works to promote and uphold the constitutional principle of separation of state and church.  STBNF had no way of knowing that the FFRF is an organization I’ve mentioned many times is this blog, and which MH and I are longtime members of.

I responded to STBNF, and we began exchanging emails, discovering other common interests and perspectives.  Besides being an intelligent, witty, perspicacious, charitable and socially responsible freethinker, STBNF is also a writer (whose works, [6] I’d wager, truly merit praise ala lucid and concise). Also like moiself, STBNF has written a self-described “bad” country western-type song…although, unlike moiself, STBNF has actual, demonstrable, musical talent.

STBNF and I met in person this week, for a two hour chat fest lunch. He has offered to possibly help me with a demo of my song, and I have introduced him to the wonderful world of footnotes. [7] I seem to have (so far) gotten the best of this deal.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of BTW

I like Sally Field. I really (sorry) like her.

*   *   *

One afternoon about a year and a half ago, MH told me that, in case I hadn’t noticed, he’d stopped wearing his wedding ring…and in case I had noticed, he wanted to assure me as to why. A combination of The Aging Process © and decades of tapping digits on keyboards had given him arthritis-like symptoms, specifically pain and swelling in his fingers. He removed his ring, hoping that doing so might alleviate the pain, and fearing that if the swelling increased and he left it on, he might have to have the ring cut off.

I hadn’t noticed his wedding band-less finger. After his revelation I decided to commiserate with his situation in the only way that seemed logical to me: by removing my own ring. This has caused just a wee bit o’ eyebrow-raising from people who’ve noticed. I assuage such concerns thusly: my removing my wedding band is not a harbinger of marital discord; rather, it’s a reinforcement of its importance and mutuality.

Up until my marriage I’d never worn rings of any kind – unless you count the Man From Uncle spy decoder ring I had for two weeks in the fifth grade.

 

 

 

MH and are both married (to each other – how convenient!). I have always refused to be unequally yoked: We chose our wedding rings together; neither of us wore an engagement ring. I would have gently but firmly refused to wear an engagement ring had MH given one to me, [8] unless he had also agreed to don a similar ring.

I’d never understood the practice of a woman wearing an engagement ring while the man’s ring finger remains unencumbered, except as a nod to our culture’s pathetic history of patriarchy. The solo engagement ring tradition is, to me, a vulgar declaration of possession (See the ring? She’s taken; she’s off the market; she’s mine), akin to a dog pissing around a fence post to mark his territory.

Yep, I’m a hopeless romantic, what can I say?

 

 

Look:  you’re both engaged to be married, right? So why the visual representation of the impending change in marital status only for the woman? Which got me wondering: how do gay couples handle this issue? [9]

Speaking of vulgar, despite the stereotype of the ring-coveting female, I’ve yet to have a woman flaunt her engagement ring to me. I have, however, lost track of the number of times I’ve been at a social gathering, been introduced to an engaged couple and had the guy grab his fiance’s left hand, thrust it in my face and demand I admire the huge rock on her finger.

Uh, yeah, dude, I get it: the size of her ring is inDICKative of the size of your ____ (paycheck; ego; penis).

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I spent many years working in women’s reproductive health care, wherein I encountered several married couples who did not wear wedding rings. The no-ring-thing was sometimes for job-related reasons (rings can be safety hazards for jewelers, mechanics and others who work with their hands), sometimes due to dermatologic allergies, and for women, sometimes due to pregnancy-induced swelling (which occasionally led to a permanent change in ring size).

I’ve met more than one married couple who’ve chosen to have their wedding bands tattooed on their fingers. Belle, my tattoo-loving daughter, thinks MH and I should do likewise, and has volunteered to draw up a design for us, based on our original gold bands.

 

 

She’s got the talent – this was Belle’s own design for her first tattoo, which impressed even the veteran tattooist.

 

 

I thanked my lovely and talented daughter for her generous offer, even as I reminded her that her father’s twin aversions – tattoos and pain – make such an idea unlikely to translate into a reality.  Perhaps if it were someplace on a less sensitive part of the body….

 

*   *   *

May life’s warning lights be entertaining as well as informative;
May your friendships be ever evolving and your yokes be equal,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi! 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Which is, of course, past warranty.

[2] Which may also include gardening, flower arranging, sitting over the drain in the bathtub when the water runs out….

[3] Yep, I’m talking about you, KW.

[4] The friendly man in your pottery class or the genial woman who volunteers alongside you at the Food Bank.

[5] Two adjectives not frequently applied to descriptions of my prose.

[6] A semi-retired software consultant, his books include the Software Requirements series, the go-to manuals on defining and managing requirements for a software or systems project.

[7] That is, their usage in personal correspondence and blog posts. As a writer of nonfiction and technical manuals, he is already well versed in documentation.

[8] He didn’t, as he knew my feelings on the matter.

[9] Lemme guess: with a lot more panache than us straight folks.

The Grave I’m Not Dancing On

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Department Of The Calm Before The Storm
Aka, I’m Supposed To Post This Kind Of Mindless Minutiae On Facebook…

I’M SO HAPPY WITH MY DOLLAR TREE PURCHASE!

After years of using our nondescript, Bed Bath & Beyond everyday flatware precious family heirloom silverware for scooping out cat food, I recently said to moiself, “Self,” I said, “the next time you pass a Dollar Tree store, why not pop inside and pick up a couple of forks?”

Two forks now reside upstairs by the cat food cans. The utensils are seemingly satisfied with – dare I guess, even proud of ? –  their singular, humble-yet-vital raison d’etre 

My contentment knows no bounds.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Storm

Aka, I May Be A Terrible Person…

But damn, I wish I’d written this headline:

Justice Scalia Dead Following 30-Year Battle With Social Progress

 

 

Should I feel guilty for rejoicing upon hearing the news of someone’s death?  [1]  While I’m not exactly dancing on his grave, full disclosure: my first reaction upon hearing that SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia had died:

Pity it wasn’t a car crash and he didn’t take one or two of his buddies [2] with him.

Sound harsh? It’s “nothing personal,” as they say. Over the years I’ve said good riddance upon hearing the news of certain people’s deaths, for example, the architects of apartheid and Osama Bin Ladin, among other political and social tyrants. And yep, on a certain level I do equate them: Scalia was a judicial tyrant, hostile to those cherished American ideals of liberty, justice and equality for all.

Sure, I’ll miss Scalia’s batshit crazy rantings bizarre flights of phraseology and imagery (“jiggery-pokery” and “Platonic golf,” in particular) but I’ll not miss his retrograde, religion-soiled worldview and blatant hostility to the advancement of human rights.

As the Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor put it in her Freethought Now blog post, Why Scalia Was a Fugitive From Justice, Scalia was a “judicial version of a bible literalist…who dressed up the old ‘states’ rights’ arguments [3] in the bizarre new clothing he termed ‘originalist’ interpretations of the Constitution.”

 

 

The thing is, Scalia wasn’t just your blowhard bigot uncle pontificating at the neighborhood watering hole. He held a powerful position and thus had a loud and far-reaching megaphone, through which he advocated ideologies that do real harm to real people. [4] Unlike your drunk uncle, Scalia got to hide his prejudices, fear and loathing behind the skirts of a judge using an originalist interpretation of the US Constitution. [5]

A sampling of the many Scali-ism which reveal his bigoted, science-hostile, religiously-warped mindset, include him

* referring to voting rights as “racial entitlements;”

* equating homosexuality with “reprehensible” conduct including incest and murder;

* comparing the quest for LGBT human rights to flagpole sitting and saying it would be okay to jail gay people – i.e. criminalize gay “behavior” – because some (straight) people don’t like them;

* defending sentencing “retarded” people to death via the everybody’s doing it argument: i.e., if mentally-impaired people continue to receive death sentences from juries then that must be socially acceptable;

* dissing the establishment clause to an audience of schoolchildren and telling another group of children that that humanity was only in its 5,000th year of existence;

* arguing that African-Americans would be better off in slower schools;

* boasting that his refusal to recuse himself from a case about then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force — after he’d just returned on a duck-hunting trip with Cheney — was the “proudest thing” he’d done on the SCOTUS;

* saying the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause didn’t apply to females and thus there is no protection against discrimination for women in the US Constitution, and advising a female law student to skip taking “frill classes” like “law and women;”

* referring to a female SCOTUS justice (Sandra O’Connor), when she refused to join him in trying to overturn Roe v. Wade, as “irrational” and “not to be taken seriously;”

* dismissing the liberties and protections provided in the Bill of Rights (“The majority wins. If you don’t believe that, you don’t believe in democracy”) and equating the protection of minority interests with protecting pederasts and child abusers;

* cavalierly proclaiming [6] that torture wasn’t “punishment” and therefore couldn’t be considered “cruel and unusual;”

* rejecting the findings of science while believing that the existence of atheists is proof of a living, literal devil….

Okay; ding dong the witch is dead. And I feel a need to wash my hands after typing just a sample of the scary shit that man has done and said over the years.

Moving on: for something resembling demographic equality and representation, for the next SCOTUS nominee we need a justice who is female and who did not attend an Ivy League and/or East coast law school, who is originally or currently FROM THE WEST, and whose worldview background is secular/atheist…or, okay Jewish or Buddhist or Sikh or Baha’i or Hindu, anything but Christian and definitively not another Catholic.

Ah, if only The Onion’s dream came true:

 

“Obama Compiles Shortlist Of Gay, Transsexual Abortion Doctors To Replace Scalia.”

*   *   *

Department Of This Should Come As No Surprise

It turns out publication bias (that is, studies purporting to discover some phenomenon are more likely to be published than studies failing to find one), which is common throughout psychology, “is greatly exacerbated in sex/gender research,” found a 2014 paper in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, citing studies going back 20 years.
(from the article, Pink Brains, Blue Brains? Mindful magazine, February 2016

 

 

Translation: it’s more interesting to think you’ve found a difference than to confirm a non-difference. Ergo, a study which alleges to find a “sex difference”  in male and female __________ (cranial structures; interest in sports; capacity for empathy; penchant for eating one’s own naval lint) gets published and gets press, while the subsequent 19 studies which find no difference receive little-to-no attention.

BTW, the answer to the article’s title rhetorical question, which has been addressed in many other studies, is a resounding WTF? no – who made that claim? Brains do not have a gender. The idea that there’s anything fundamentally different about men’s and women’s brains is a myth, despite what $chlock-peddler$ like that Venus and Mars bull$hit arti$t would have you buy (literally), is codswallop.

Ain’t that right, Angry Tiki Man Man?

 

If everybody’s brains are the same then they can all figure out how to STAY OFF MY LAWN.

*   *   *

Department of Ahhhh…….

This photo from daughter Belle illustrates her claim that “one of the perks of working in a natural history museum [7]  is that you and the specimens sometimes match.

 

*   *   *

May you find exceptional happiness in humble purchases;
May the perks of your workplace be artistically fulfilling;
May the color of your brain continue to be irrelevant;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Answer: it depends, both on the Someone and the death.

[2] Whose surnames rhyme with BombAss and A-flea-toe.

[3]States’ rights” is a code term, often used to shield the potentially offensive and controversial intentions of the person employing it. It is typically used by conservative politicians (remember George Wallace?) to bring racial images and attitudes to mind without actually having to say the words. Ronald Reagan infamously used that nudge nudge wink wink code to appeal to the racist ideology of the old white southerners whom he sought to bring into his coalition of voters (and without whom he would have lost the 1980 election).

[4] Including and especially, IMHO, re his attitudes toward gay people.

[5]  You know, the logic and justice of applying the mindset of 240 years ago – when women could not vote and blacks counted as 3/5 of a person – to contemporary society law and politics.

[6] In a 2004 Interview with CNN.

[7] In her case, that of her school’s (the University of Puget Sound) – Slater Museum .

The American I’m Not Proud To Be

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“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”
Albert Einstein, scientist (1879-1955)

There was this thing, between the last blog and today’s – this national holiday. It was a big one – arguably the most important, as far as national holidays go.

 

love it or leave it

 

And now we’re in that post July 4 and pre- [1] official political campaign season, wherein possibly or marginally sane and erstwhile sensibly dressed men and women

 

on second thought…

 

have to start wearing flag lapel pins and touting their I love ‘Murica credentials.

The endless posturing begins, re who is more proud of their country and who has the best ways to love it, along with all that American exceptionalism jabberslop [2]

 

 

…which inevitably lead to accusations that certain sentiments or political positions are evidence of a lack of robust pride in being a USA citizen. I might as well warn the rabid Red Staters up front: do not ask moiself if I’m “proud to be an American,” [3] because you probably won’t like my answer.

No, thank you. I am not proud to be an American.

At least, not as I understand the concept.

The various dictionary definitions of proud are linked to achievement and action, as indicated by the usage examples given for the word:

They are the proud parents of a hero.
I was proud that I never gave in.
She’s the proud owner of a new car.
Her proudest accomplishment was to finish school.

I am not proud to have brown eyes, to be of Irish-Norwegian-Welsh-French-Cherokee heritage, nor to be a woman. These and other, more or less noteworthy attributes are mine, but neither by choice nor achievement. Moiself, I only take pride in intention, behavior and accomplishment, not in something resulting from the roll of the DNA dice nor, in the case of my being an American, the luck of geography when it came to my place of birth. [4]

I feel fortunate to be a citizen of the USA, but not proud. [5] Perhaps if I had been born in another country and had sacrificed and struggled and waded through red tape and green card bureaucracy to become a naturalized US citizen, that’d be something of which I was proud. I am an American because I was born on US soil to US citizens and, according to the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment , that’s all it took. My own worthiness, desire, skills and/or initiative had nothing to do with it.

 

 

However, a recent Freedom From Religion Foundation blog post gave me something else to consider on this issue. In Proud to Be An American, the July 3 FRFF blog, Staff Attorney and Constitutional Consultant Andrew Seidel writes that he takes pride in being an American because

…this nation, despite its faults and missteps, was the first to separate state and church. That “wall of separation” as Jefferson put it, is an American original.

This is not to say the idea is necessarily an American invention, but it was first implemented in the “American Experiment,” as Madison put it. Until then, no other nation had sought to so full protect the ability of its citizens to think freely. No people had sought to divorce the terrible power religion holds over the supposed afterlife, from the power government has in everyday life. Until then, the freedom of thought and even the freedom of religion, could never have truly existed.

Now, that’s something to be proud of – the Americans of the past who fought hard to establish a religion-free constitution, and those who remain vigilant in upholding our resultant freedoms.

I’ll drink a toast to that.

But I still won’t wear a fucking lapel pin.

*   *   *

Department of Blame the Parents? The weather? The Internet? Donald Trump?

Daughter Belle is working as an Oregon Zoo Day Camp Camp Counselor. The camps run all summer long, one week for each session. This week she is working with the “Giraffe” camp, which is for children entering the second grade.

Every evening at the dinner table MH and I ask about her day. The first three weeks, when she was working with kids of kindergarten age, she regaled us with stories about how children that age should NOT be entrusted with either water [6] or shoelaces, how the boys “form little kingdoms and hierarchies” that quickly dissolve; i.e., they are friends and allies one minute and crying to the counselors five minutes later (“He called me a big baby – waaaah!”), and just how much hovering certain helicopter parents are capable of. Belle is starting to develop opinions, to put it mildly, as to children’s behavior and maturity levels and as to what and/or who is responsible for the miscreants little darlings’ manners.

Tuesday eve, when I picked her up at the light rail station and asked about camp, her expression curdled. It seems that one of the girls in her group (“One of the blondes; I forget which one – all the blonde ones look kind of the same, you know?”), apropos of nothing, approached her with this stimulating conversation opener.

Blonde Girl: “You should do something with your hair.”
Belle: ????
Blonde Girl:  “It looks kind of tired.”

Hair much too busy to be tired.

*   *   *

Last weekend as MH and I were returning home from a walk, we passed a house in our neighborhood which is occupied by “unschoolers.” Or so we assume from the bumper stickers the house’s vehicles have sported over the years that promote unschooling. [7]

I got to wondering to MH:  If parents practice unschooling for their children, what about the adults? Does that philosophy – of self-direction and pursuing only that which interests you at the moment – carry on into other aspects of their lives? Is their house un-kept and un-maintained? [8] Do they un-cook their meals? Are they employed, and if so, do they practice un-working?

From an unschooling website info section, “What is unschooling?” (emphases mine)

There are as many approaches to unschooling as there are people, by design. A child is supported to read when ready and interested, not on another’s timetable, for example. He can and will be encouraged to pursue a wide range of interests, based on his interests, such as free play, inventing, experimenting scientifically, video gaming, role modeling through friendship, spiritual development through inquiry of self and others, athletics, learning to trust himself and others…..

An unschooled adult, or parent, is one who is loving the self designed life they have created for themselves. (sic ) [9] They may be entrepreneurs, travelers, create large incomes or small, simple ones. They know what foods, friendships, work, play and spiritual connections allow them to feel alive and challenged and satisfied.

MH said he doubted his own project managers and co-workers would look kindly upon him if he took up un-working,

“You know, I’m not interested in working on our cache memory project this week – it’s just not on my timetable right now…”

and that if he did so, he might soon find himself practicing un-employment.

 

Unschooled teen learning to pursue his wide range of interests.

*   *   *

For the past few weeks it’s been too damn hot for me to drag my loves-the-cooler-Pacific-northwest-climate butt out and shoot some arrows. I’ve missed going to a somewhat local, free, outdoor archery range, and while I’ve discovered a relatively nearby indoor fee range, I haven’t been motivated to make the time (or pay the fee) to go there. While taking practice in my self-designed, “indoor” (read: garage) range this week, [10] I reflected upon a common experience several of my archery class-mates (the female ones) shared with me: it seems that every other person who finds out you have taken up archery asks if or assumes that  you’ve done so because you liked The Hunger Games books and/or movies and want to emulate the hero, Katniss Everdeen.

While I admire many things about The Hunger Games franchise, I’d been interested in archery a long time before Ms. Everdeen strapped on her recurve bow. Any delusions of Katniss-osity were the furthest thing from my mind when I took the intro to archery class.

Part of the fun the class instructor had with us archery neophytes was to ask us to choose names (or “avatars”) that had something to do with our living or working situation, where we were born, or other personal attributes or interests. He’d then divide us into pairs or groups according to those names and have us compete in various aiming and scoring games. I came home after one of those sessions, wherein a fellow (male) student had chosen the name Katniss, and announced to MH that I had found my archery avatar.

Call me Catpiss.

MH was less than impressed, and remained so, even after I told him that although my interest in archery was strictly for the zen of aiming and concentration, if I ever did take up bow hunting, he could provide the duck calls. [11]

 

An off day for Catpiss.

*   *   *

 

 

May your hair be manage-ably energetic, may your aim be worthy of your avatar,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Ah, how I wish indeed it were “pre,” but the presidential campaigning season gets longer and longer and…

[2] I was going to say jiggery-pokery, but Justice Scalia took the gibberish right out of my mouth.

[3] Like they are soooooo interested in my opinion.

[4] Which, as it happened, was a doctor’s locker room (or, “a doctor’s broom closet,” as my late great father used to tease my mother), but it was a locker room on American soil, dadgummit.

[5] And sometimes embarrassed, depending on policies supported by my fellow citizens.

[6] Which, according to Belle, they spill on themselves at every opportunity and then shriek as if someone’s tossed acid on their clothing.

[7] John Holt, the “father” of unschooling, believed that children didn’t need to be forced to learn in a structured environment but would learn naturally if allowed freedom to follow their own interests.

[8] From what I’ve seen of their front yard upkeep…well…insert (un)snarky comment.

[9] I can’t help but gloat over the unschooled and uncorrected redundancy and punctuation mistakes.

[10] Designed for safety – the neighbors (and the water heater) needn’t worry.

[11] A subtly placed fart joke – thank you, ladies and germs. Although, my ignorance of hunting is probably showing. I imagine bow hunters go for larger targets (deer, boar) than ducks.

The Pizza I’m Not Delivering

Comments Off on The Pizza I’m Not Delivering

 Happy Maytag Day!

Dang – I mean, Happy Mayfly Day!

Or rather, Happy Maypole Day! 

Make that, Happy Mayflower Day!

Or is it, Happy Mayday?

Er…maybe…Happy Mother May I Day?

You most certainly may not!

*   *   *

Department of Chick Lit vs. Dick Lit 

I’ve groused about this before.

Yes, really.

This being the overt and covert sexism in the literary world, particularly when it comes to book reviews and categorization.

You’ve probably heard the term chick lit, whether or not you fully understand the literary insinuations behind the label. Nutshell: if a female novelist writes about herself, or her fiction’s  protagonists share similar characteristics (ethnicity, age, social and economic circumstances) with herself or her peers, or if Female Novelist tackles subjects related to family, feelings or relationships, she’s a neurotic narcissist and/or what she writes is labeled chick lit. [1]  When a (usually white) male author does the same; naturally, his works are consigned to the label…what would that be: dick lit?

Noooooooo.   He gets no such label. He’s illustrating and critiquing the human condition; he’s doing some serious Lit-ra-chure.

The reason for a grousing reprise was the snippet of an artsy radio program I caught while I was driving to some miscellaneous errand. A male voice emanating from my car radio, using the reverent, NPR poetry voice ©  intonation, [2]  was praising the works and themes of the esteemed Russian short story author and playwright, Anton Chekov. And that less-than-reverent yeah, right voice popped into my head.

Anton Chekov is the second most produced playwright in history (the first, of course, is Billybob Shakespeare). Chekov’s stories and plays address themes of the clash between social progress and the maintenance of compassionate human relationships; the frailty of human physical, mental and emotional health; the lack of communication between people of goodwill – even and especially between family members; the lure of aspirations and ideals and the seeming impossibility of realizing them, especially within one’s social and family structure….

Duuuuude.  If Chekov’s works were somehow re-introduced today and Anton was changed to Antonia, there’d be lavender and pink cover art…and he’d never have been awarded the Pushkin Prize.

*   *   *

Speaking of dicks….

Three weeks ago I mentioned my dream in which I had to deliver pizza to former president Ronald Reagan.

In Real Life ® , if I had to deliver pizza to anyone with that particular surname, I would be most happy if it were Uncle Ronnie’s wonderful and witty son, Ron Reagan.

I’ve been a fan of Ron Reagan’s even before I heard him speak at the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s annual convention. RR the younger is proof that not only can the apple fall far from the tree, it is capable of rolling uphill.

Ron Reagan is currently a commentator and program contributor for MSNBC cable news network. His career in media includes jobs as a talk radio host and political analyst for KIRO radio, and he hosted his own daily show on Air America Radio.  RR is known for his progressive and liberal political and social views, and is also an active, out-of-the-closet atheist. His activism on behalf of atheist and Freethought causes includes the pithy PSA he recorded for the Freedom From Religion Foundation…a PSA you may have heard on CNN or Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but which was banned from the three major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC).

ABC and NBC rejected the PSA – although when first approached by the FFRF, NBC offered to accept the paid advertising if FFRF would delete the spot’s concluding line– it’s punch line, for crissake! – which RR delivers with an adorable, wry smile:

“Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.” [3]

FFRF also wanted to buy time for the ad on Sixty Minutes. After months of delays in their response, CBS rejected that placement AND banned the ad from any national CBS show.

Here’s what some network execs found so scary:

 

 

I’ve watched a lot of CBS’ Sixty Minutes over the years, and have lost track of the number of commercials the network has run that are considered offensive or dodgy by some folk (myself included). Apparently the craven asswipes wise content programmers at CBS have no problem running ads for products that talk directly or obliquely about ED (and the dangers of erections lasting longer than 4 hours!), or commercials which feature people gyrating and clutching their abdomens and buttocks to illustrate the discomfort of diarrhea, flatulence and other intestinal disorders…but an atheist who calmlys jibe about H – E- Double hockey sticks?  Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

 

*   *   *

I have no respect for any human being who believes in it [Hell]. I have no respect for any man who preaches it. I have no respect for the man who will pollute the imagination of childhood with that infamous lie. I have no respect for the man who will add to the sorrows of this world with the frightful dogma. I have no respect for any man who endeavours to put that infinite cloud, that infinite shadow, over the heart of humanity.
 — Robert G. Ingersoll

*   *   *

Department of Getting The Kids Up To Speed

Last Saturday’s book fair. To survive such events, I close my eyes and think of England grit my teeth and think of castor oil, and other things that (as a writer) are supposed to be good for you.

Friend and fellow writer SCM mused about the incongruity of having a book fair at library, where people can read books for free. [4] She also kept me sane through the event via a series of texts that distracted me from smacking people who attempted to walk off with copies of The Mighty Quinn without paying for them, [5] along with the par-for-the-course Book Fair atmosphere that several newbie authors noticed and commented on.

Higher sales (and dignity) than those of book fairs.

One Nice Young Man, © an editor and author of children’s picture books who was participating in his first book fair, mentioned in an email to me that he was disappointed in both the turnout and the number of copies of his books sold…but that he (altogether now, authors) had a good time and made some connections/met other nice authors, so it was worth it.

I tried to be gentle yet illuminating in my reply.

It was nice to meet you, too.  Your experience (few sales, but good time) was par for the course. As a reluctant veteran of many book fairs, and can tell you that the turnout was, in fact, typical for a book fair.

Also, the rules of Book Fair are a variation on Rules 1 & 2 of Fight Club:
1. Nobody sells books at Book Fairs.
2. Nobody buys books at Book Fairs.

If you want to find the fair attendees, check the cookie booth.

*   *   *

Whether you celebrate the coming of spring or the day when industrial workers worldwide  protest the capitalist insect that preys upon the people, [6] may you have a Happy May Day, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] or the only marginally better regarded,  “women’s fiction.”

[2] You know what that is.

[3] Then NBC decided they wouldn’t take the spot even if it were censored altered.

[4] And for which, all you well-meaning library patrons – or at least those who mistakenly think they are supporting literature by reading library books – the books’ authors are not compensated. If 2000 people serially check out the library’s copy of Reflections on a Wrinkled Elbow, the book’s author receives a royalty on the one copy the library purchased.

[5] This has happened at every such event I’ve participated in.

[6] And when in doubt, I say, celebrate ’em all.

The Offer I’m Not Accepting

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A Nice Way To Start The Week

Dateline: Monday, ~ 7:50 am, out for my morning walk. On my way back home I approach a path that cuts through a local park. The path starts near a sidewalk which is a school bus stop for one of the local high schools. Three groups of kids wait at the stop:

* two Latino boys to the far right of the sidewalk, their laughter carrying a block away.

* three girls “in the middle” of the sidewalk, about ten feet away from the boys, are talking with each other. The girls, who appear to be Asian and Latina, are slim, fashionably dressed, and gorgeous.

* and one…well, not a group, but one student stands far to the left of the others. The one is a very tall, very chubby, very white and very lonely looking boy, hair and clothing by Nerdstyle. His gaze is fixed downward at his ratty, generic sneakers.

The dynamic seemed obvious.

One of the girls glances over her shoulder at Lonely Boy. She looks back at her group, at the other two boys, then leaves her friends and sidles over to Lonely Boy. As I approach and pass by them I hear her ask him about his project.[1]  I also catch the look on Lonely Boy’s face – the shy but noticeable, hopeful, gleam in his eyes.

Someone is paying attention to me.

The act and consequence, however fleeting, of a moment of connection and kindness…. It stayed with me the rest of the day.

*   *   *

The preceding warm fuzzy was brought to by The Treacledown Theory. We return you to our regular shit-talking programming.

*   *   *

Department of Burning Bridges

This week I received the following offer for publication:

First, let me apologize for the serious delay in my response.  Second, we would love to publish “____________” (name of my story) in ___________ (journal name), for publication in 2016.  I understand there is a good likelihood this piece been picked up elsewhere.  Please let me know if it’s still available.
Thanks so much for your submission. ____________(Editor name)

I had long ago written off that submission (which I do with any submitted work when the editors have not replied within their journal’s stated length-of-reply period) as an assumed rejection.

The story Redacted Journal Name wants to publish was sent to them, by moiself, in January 2012. No, that is not a typo. Longest reply ever. One thousand fifty-four days to consider a 3000 word story. [2] Also, this journal “pays” their contributors only in copies of said journal. [3]

I think I’ll wait…oh, maybe three years or so…to decline their generous offer.

*   *   *

More From The Wacky World o’ Literature Files

I’ve been a writer for some time, submitting my work, having it be both accepted and rejected. In years of doing so I’ve had many Interesting Experiences, ®  and two Standout Experiences this week alone (one of which is the afore-mentioned longest reply ever).

Interesting Experiences include having manuscripts returned to me that I neither submitted nor penned. That is, I’d sent a manuscript of mine to a publisher, and that publisher returned to me a manuscript that was not mine – one that had been submitted to the same publisher, by another author.

Really.

These mistakes I found both amusing (okay, my manuscript was not right for you, but you couldn’t just say “No, thanks,” – you had to send me someone else’s rejected work?) and alarming (Yikes – is this the attentive care you take with all of your submissions?).

In each case of errant manuscript return, the other authors’ last names also started with a P or were vaguely similar to mine (I assume the errors were blamed on overworked or alphabetically-challenged editorial assistants). After alerting the publishers of their respective mishaps, at their request I destroyed the manuscripts…but not before reading the opening pages or chapters, [4] and doing so has given me a high appreciation of what publishers and editors must wade through on a daily basis, and an even higher suspicion of self-published works. [5]

So. On to this week’s Standout Experience #2.

Never have I been addressed as Mrs., nor have I ever used that title, either personally or professionally. This week I received a reply to a query, from a publisher who addressed me as Mrs. Parnell. That is something I’d expect from junk mail/catalog come-ons, not from a publisher…who, BTW, who knows nothing of my marital status, which should be irrelevant in professional correspondence, anyway.

Professionally or personally, it is wrong to refer to me as Mrs. Parnell. I have been, and always shall be your friendDammit, Spock – cease the mind meld at once!

Live long and apologize when necessary.

I’ll try that again. I have been, and always shall be, Ms.-Parnell-please-call-me-Robyn.

MH, renegade trendsetter that he is, kept his birth surname when we married. So did I. I have never been a Mrs. Anyname.

In over twenty-seven years, editors and publishers have always addressed me as Ms. Parnell. It just struck me as…odd. I was annoyed by that salutation coming from a publisher, then annoyed by my own annoyance.

*   *   *

I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
(George Bernard Shaw)

Now that I have Mr. Shaw’s permission, I shall spice my conversation:

Our purpose in life isn’t outsourced.
(Robyn Parnell, re how the religion-free create meaning in life)

“…all ministers are slave-traders – all Christian ministers (Paul called himself a slave, Jesus said you should become captive and you should submit and deny yourself ). They are preaching a backward message about life and about purpose.”
 (excerpt from an interview with Dan Barker, Freethought Today radio podcast, 3-14-15 [6])

Yep, that’s  Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Dan Barker, himself a former evangelical minister, referring to megachurch pastor Rick Warren and other such pastors as slave-traders, in an interview about Barker’s new book, Life Driven Purpose. LDP, published by Pitchstone Publishing, aims to be “the first atheist book shelved in the inspirational section” of bookstores.

According to Barker, the whole point of the book is to “flip everything around,” as per the message from books like the Rev. Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, and other “inspirational” titles which claim people cannot have a life of meaning without (their particular brand of) religion. More excerpts from Barker’s interview:

The good news in a nutshell is that there is no purpose of life – and that is great news! Because if there’s a purpose of life, that means we are secondary; we’re having to look up somewhere for someone to hand it to us – ‘here’s what you are’ – we’re like slaves, we’re like servants to whoever this boss is, as the Bible teaches. But the really great news is that although there is no purpose of life – and we shouldn’t want there to be, because life is its own reward – that doesn’t mean that there’s no purpose in life…. Atheists and nonbelievers have immense purpose in our lives….

“I think we atheists are truly in-spired, while (religious) believers are out-spired. They don’t have any in-spiration; they have to get it all from someone outside of themselves telling them, ‘Here’s your marching orders; here’s your rules to live, don’t think for yourselves – it’s not about you,’ like Rick Warren says. We atheists and non-believers find purpose and meaning, we create purpose and meaning within ourselves.”

Whenever I run across a reference to Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, I find myself wondering what purpose drove Warren when he visited Uganda in 2008, where he supported Ugandan Anglican’s bishops in their boycott of other Anglican’s  support for LGBT/human rights  and declared that “homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus is not a human right,” after which the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (originally called the “Kill the Gays Bill”) was introduced in the Ugandan parliament.  [7]

Anyway….

Dan Barker’s book will be released in April, and can be pre-ordered from the usual outlets.

*   *   *

Department of There Needs to Be Such A Thing

After friend SCM brought her yummy-yum-yummers potatoes to our Sunday St. Patrick’s Day-The Ides of March-Pi Day-Mardi Gras-Spring celebratory dinner, I suggested she and I form PLASMA, which is a scrambled acronym for what would be the Lumpy Artisinal Mashed Potato Appreciation Society. [8]

While I appreciate pureed foods in many forms, I am suspicious of mashed potatoes that have no lumps or “substance” whatsoever. Totally smooth mashed potatoes are a template for lefse but, IMHO, have little purpose outside of that. I prefer my MPs to have texture; i.e., chunks of delicious potatoes.

I volunteer to assume the duties and responsibilities of PLASMA’s The Dowager Lumpy. I will gladly accept suggestions for the title to be bestowed upon the genteel (and gentile, to boot) SCM.

Mashed potatoes without lumps? How middle class.

*   *   *

Department of It’s Obvious, Dude

To the residents of the really-needs-the-lawn-mown-and-siding-painted house, every window of which is covered with aluminum foil and/or an American flag:

Wouldn’t it just be easier to hang a sign on the front door that says, We cook meth here?

nothin’ to hide in here, no sir, officer sir.

*   *   *

May your salutations be appropriate, may your mashed potatoes be lumpy, may your view stay foil-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The high school they attend has a mandatory Senior Project for graduating students, and this would be the time of the year students would be working on their projects.

[2] That’s 2.6 words a day. Of course I did the math.

[3] I no longer submit work to publications that offer no monetary compensation to writers.

[4] I at first thought they might be my works, and each time this happened I wondered why the publisher had taken the time and expense to return my ms., despite my having clearly requested in my cover letter that the publisher follow the industry standard on hard copy submissions (which is to destroy/recycle the ms. and reply via the enclosed SASE).

[5] I cringe to think that those would-be books I read could make it to publication without having gone through the “gate keepers” (i.e. they were in need of severe editing)…and suck writing can, nowadays, thanks to the self-publishing industry.

[6] Yes – almost the best Pi day date ever!

[7] Rick Warren was not the only American conservative minister to export their anti-LGBT propaganda to Africa.

[8] Artisinal because you can’t spit without hitting artisanal something in the Portland area.

The I’m Proverbs Not Quoting

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 Happy Half Birthday to MH!

Yes, we celebrate such things.

*   *   *

Last week I saw the proverbial Woman Who Went Out In Public Wearing A Housecoat And Slippers, And With Her Hair In Curlers ® . She didn’t even bother to wear a hat or a scarf to cover the curlers – I didn’t know that there were women who still wore hair curlers, or that such curlers are still being made.  They seem like such a childhood remnant, of Something Old People Did.

This public place was a grocery story. Now, I’m not exactly known for my vanity (read: for having much about which I could be vain), but I can’t imagine what would prompt me to leave the house, looking/dressed like that. [1]  As I walked behind her I realized that there was something worse than walking around in public dressed in a tatty house-thingy and curlers, and that thing is this: I felt an urge to whip out my phone and snap a picture of her.

All together now:  Bad, non-compassionate person.

I was able to restrain my photo-urge, in part because I began to wonder about how the word proverbial; specifically, how it came to mean something so well known as to be stereotypical…along with its original meaning, which is something related to a reference in a proverb.

Have you read any of the biblical proverbs lately – as in, from the book of Proverbs? Some seriously wacky shit fun stuff.

19:24 A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.
(not sure what this particular piece of whackadoodery means, but it’s fun because, bosom.)

20:8 A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.
(Those are, like, some serious laser eyes).

(22:15) “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
(Beating kids will make ’em less foolish. What time is it – have you beaten your child today?)

26:11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
(Well yeah, there’s that.)

(28:5) “They that seek the LORD understand all things.”
(which explains the glut of Fundamentalist preacher Rhodes Scholars and Nobel Prize-winning scientists.)

The Department of Graceful Segues has failed me. There’s just no way out of this one, except for an inspirational visit from the Farting Preacher.

*   *   *

Department of Someone It Would Be Easy To Hate Because He’s so Fucking Talented in So Many Areas But Damned If He Isn’tThey  Also Wise and Compassionate and Funny and Self-Effacing and….

…and doesn’t take himself too seriously, as per this photo of him rapping in a college [2]talent show.

 

That would be Jim Yong Kim, M.D., Ph.D., Korean-born American physician-anthropologist-Dartmouth College President, World Health Organization AIDS Dept. Director, MacArthur Fellows Genuis Award Winner, head of the World Bank, who  just likes to show up at my house every so often for tea and conversation about the world’s problems was featured guest on a recent Freakonomics radio show.

And he probably makes his own bread from scratch.

 

Actually, it’s not bread – I make pasta from scratch. But, I’m working on perfecting a sourdough starter which will also provide the world with a renewable, carbon emissions-free energy source.

*   *   *

Department of Spontaneous Trips to Tacoma

Because when you are doing one of the Portland Hill Walks with your husband on a late Sunday morning and your nineteen year old daughter texts you from college, saying she misses seeing her parents and would you consider making a “day trip” up to see her..

You gotta go, if you can.

I’d forgotten that the following day was a holiday, for MH at least (our offspring, K and Belle, did not have a day off from classes, nor did the rest of the students at the University of Puget Sound). MH remembered this, and said that if we really wanted to be spontaneous….  One point five hours later we’d returned home, thrown overnight necessities into dufflebags and were headed north on I-5, MH driving while I tried to make last minute cat-house-sitting arrangements, [3] procure overnight lodging, and coordinate Belle and K joining us for dinner that evening.

It turned out to be a whirlwind, great trip, [4] fantastic, spring-teaser weather, and a bonus parental reassurance of seeing our daughter with her wrist cast [5] and noting that everything is going to be fine.

I heartily approve of Tacoma’s Commencement Bay policy banning bicycling at low tide.

*   *   *

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year –– to  my sister-in-law, JP, and to all Chinese-Americans, and Happy Lunar New Year to all Asian Americans.

The Lunar calendar designates 2015 as the Year of the Goat…or sheep or ram. There seems to be some disagreement as to the interpretation of the Chinese character yang, which can be translated to mean goat, sheep or ram in English.

Because of K & Belle’s years of ZooTeens work at the Oregon Zoo, our family has learned about and become fond of goats.  Thus, I will take the liberty of wishing everyone a Happy Year of the (cute screaming baby) Goat.

 

*   *   *

Belated Valentine’s greetings to everyone, in the form of this delightful, Darwin-inspired love song, It’s Only Natural, written by the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s co-president Dan Barker [6] and performed by singer Susan Hofer.

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy what comes naturally, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] An emergency of some kind – you wouldn’t find me in a Safeway.

[2] He has multiple degrees, from both Brown and Harvard, of course.

[3] The amazing LAH to the rescue, once again!

[4] Although note to young people: there’s no such thing, for your decrepit parents at least, as a “day trip” that involves a 3.5 hour drive one way, which means a 3.5 hour return drive.

[5] Injury noted in last week’s blog post, Student vs. Brick Wall.

[6] Barker is a pianist and composer with over 200 published songs, and still receives royalties for Vacation Bible School musicals he wrote back in the ’70s when he was an evangelical Christian pastor (“Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “His Fleece Was White As Snow” )…royalties he now donates to Freethought causes.

The Album I’m Not Reviewing

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Because, although I’m always a critic, I’m not a reviewer.

However, as the name of my blog suggests, I can be a declarative liar.

In light of her recent dumping by her husband of over 36 years divorce from husband Neil, it’s easy to read themes of melancholy, duplicity and loss into the songs on Pegi Young’s latest album, Lonely In a Crowded Room. Young’s low key, casual, bluesy, r & b country –tinged vocal delivery subtly intensifies the bitterness, heartbreak and yearning behind many of the songs, especially in the zinger of a final track, “Blame It On Me.”  There is also a wicked low-key wit in evidence behind several of her songs, in particular, “In My Dreams” and “Better Livin’ Through Chemicals.”

This is one of those collections that creeps up on you – it gets better with each listen, IMHO. Go ahead, click that purchase button.

*   *   *

In last week’s post I included 15 Little Known If Not Exactly Personal Facts About Moiself, which contained a content alert for name dropping.  The alert was related to two facts, one of which pertains to this post:

(9) I worked for the obstetrician who delivered Neil and Pegi Young’s second child.

This was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away, when I was a health educator for a private OB-GYN practice near Stanford Hospital.  My employers were DWB and POM, a husband-wife doctor/nurse practitioner. The practice’s staff prided ourselves on developing close relationships with our patients, and over the months of pregnancy and post partum visits and childbirth education classes and new parent’s support group that met weekly in the office, we got to know and care for the OB patients in a deeper way than was possible with those we saw but once a year for annual exams.

Pegi Young, pregnant with her and her husband Neil’s second child, had been referred to our practice. She was of the nicest, kindest, most  good humored, gracious and warmhearted of our patients. Thus, Pegi became a favorite of the staff because of how she was, not who she was in some people’s eyes – the wife of a famous husband (I loved that my employer, the doctor who delivered the Young’s baby, had no idea who Neil Young was, other than the tall skinny shy guy with the holey jeans who sometimes came to appointments with Pegi).  I remember thinking that, although I knew little about Pegi’s personal life, it must be nice for Pegi to be the “star” in our eyes – as the pregnant patient she had our primary attention – when it was likely her husband who drew all the attention elsewhere.

A few times a month I would treat myself to a break from sack lunches and skip across the street from the practice to The Stanford Barn. The Barn was (surprise!) a big, barn-like structure that housed several businesses, including a restaurant. More than a half a dozen times I’d arrived at the restaurant to see one of our practice’s patients waiting alone to be seated for lunch, either before or after their OB appointment. If the patient saw me, I’d suggest she join me for lunch (sometimes, they beat me to it and extended the invitation). I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the patients outside of the office, and they seemed to relish the chance to talk to someone who was genuinely interested in their home and work lives, and who asked them non-pregnancy related questions.

One day in the restaurant, as I waited for the staff to seat me, in walked Pegi Young. We greeted each other, and for the first time I hesitated in extending the invitation I had so freely extended to our Stanford scientist patient, our Silicon Valley entrepreneur  patient, our self-identified “pilot’s wife” patient, our teacher patient…. You get the picture?

Considering the speed of neuron transmission, the thoughts going through my mind took less than a nanosecond to process, and I’m sure she didn’t notice my hesitation. I didn’t want her to think I was treating her differently than any other person or that I wanted to be around her because she was married to a famous man…but, if I didn’t ask her to join me for lunch I would be treating her differently for just that reason.

Damn the torpedoes; I figured she could just say no. I extended the invitation and she joined me for lunch.

Can you guess which famous-person-by-association touched these French fries?

We had a pleasant meal (which included really good fries, as I recall) and a nice chat, with me still feeling twinges of awkwardness when I realized certain questions I was about to ask, questions I had asked the other patients, questions that were related to what they told me about their lives and aspects I therefore found unique and interesting, could be taken as me trying to pry into a celebrity’s life.  I didn’t know at the time that Pegi, although not a “celebrity,” was a musician/singer/songwriter in her own right, and had been, years before she’d met her better known musician husband.

Like all the other “patient lunches” I’d had and would go on to have, it was an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes or so with an acquaintance…and that was that. We didn’t go on to be best buds or anything. She had her baby, [1] we (the office staff) saw her less frequently, I left the practice not long after.  I did continue to think of Ms. Young, occasionally and fondly, and still do, after all these years.

Oh, and Pegi Young’s album? I bought it because it’s really good.

*   *   *

Just In Case You Were Wondering

Neuroscientist David Linden, in a fascinating Fresh Air interview on the science behind the sense of touch, reported this earth-shaking find:  he and colleagues have determined that no matter how sensitive you think your own…uh…parts…are, you cannot read Braille with your genitals.

You know how these things work – when you share a little-known fact like, “It is impossible for a person to lick their own elbow,” people immediately try to lick their elbows.  Seeing as how the majority of us do not have access to Braille materials in our home, Linden advises we not rush out to the nearest ATM to test that particular finding.

*   *   *

Speaking of Lady and Man Parts (and you know I do)….

Dateline: Thursday morning, at the kitchen table. As I sat down with my avocado tofu scramble, MH read me the photo caption from a New York Times article:

“…. Park Slope, Brooklyn, experienced its second manhole explosion in less than 24 hours.”

“Yikes.” I shivered.  “That’s gotta hurt.

“How’s that?” MH said…or something (whatever he mumbled, it was the perfect set up).

I briefly explained that while I feel sympathy toward anyone with a manhole, I think the guys in Park Slope ought to lay off the chili dogs. [2]

*   *   *

The Dangers of Playing the Game

When you are not feeling particularly good about yourself in terms of future professional prospects among other issues, it’s rather irritating when the day’s Cryptogram word puzzle solution is the I-know-that’s-how-the-world-works-but-it-still-sucks, Aristotle quotation

“(Personal) beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction.”

♫ I feel pretty… ♫

*   *   *

Department of Civic Responsibilities

On Tuesday I responded to a Freedom From Religion Foundation Action alert by sending an email to Mayor Lupe Ramos Watson of Indio, CA, thanking her for deciding to end the Indio City Council’s practice of opening meetings with prayer.

“We need to respect all beliefs and absence of beliefs,” Mayor Ramos Watson said, explaining her decision (as reported in The Desert Sun).

My email:

Thank you, Mayor Ramos Watson, for your decision to keep the government neutral on matters of religion by stopping the practice of opening city council meetings with prayer.

It’s a bit odd that I feel compelled to thank a public servant for doing what should be par for the course – upholding Constitutional principles and standing up for the rights of all of her constituents. However, these days it seems your sensible understanding of the issue is, unfortunately, not held by all of your peers.

One wee/small nit to pick – or rather, something to consider – re your thoughtful statement as quoted in The Desert Sun, “We need to respect all beliefs and absence of beliefs.”  We who are religion-free – we agnostics, atheists, freethinkers, Humanists, Brights – are not absent of beliefs or principles.  We have many, many beliefs. The difference is, our beliefs are based on reason and the natural world, not supernaturalism.

Again, I thank you for doing the right thing, wish you all the best, and am, Sincerely yours,

When was the last time you praised a politician for doing the right thing? [3] I know for moiself, when it comes to civic affairs it’s so much easier – and, let’s face it, sometimes fun – to carp than to encourage, and I’m trying to change that.

*   *   *

Hold Your Applause

On Tuesday I woke up at 3 am with the following question on my mind: [4]

If the Director of the NSA has to leave a presidential briefing to take a pee,
does that constitute a security leak?

*   *   *

Department of this Explains A Few Things

Because my mother generally does better recalling the past than living in the present, during my weekly phone calls with her I try to follow the wise counsel found in Compassionate Communication With the Memory Impaired, and ask her to repeat stories of her childhood.

I cannot recall the prompt – something stormy weather-related – that made me ask my mother to tell me about the one time she and her family experienced a tornado in Cass Lake, Minnesota. I’d heard her tell the story several times before; during our last phone call, she provided more details.

Cass Lake was well north of Tornado Alley, and, according to my mother, rarely did the small town experience severe thunder or windstorms, and never tornadoes.  Still, a tornado warning came one day in the summer when my she and her parents were staying at their family’s small cabin at nearby Wolf Lake.

The tornado mostly spared the town, but the storm that hatched it packed some mighty winds. While her father went outside to batten down the hatches, [5] my mother’s mother (whom my siblings and I referred to as our “Bapa”), clutched her youngest daughter, my mother, and repeated, over and over, that her greatest fear was about to come true: the cabin would be picked up by the tornado “…we’ll all be dumped into the lake!”

“She said what?” I was aghast.  “Mom, that’s terrible! Bapa was a bad mother.”

My mother laughed at the epithet.

“I’m serious – that was a bad mother thing to do.”

My mother did not dispute my assessment. She noted that she hadn’t been all that concerned about the storm (in fact, she’d found it rather exciting) until her mother panicked.  “She was terrified; she was so scared.”

“Which means that you were, too, right?  She made you scared, too?”

“Mmm hmm.”

“Parents are supposed to make light of the situation, or joke or do something, anything, to keep their children calm and make them feel safe. It doesn’t matter how scared the adults are; it’s their job to hold it together, for their kids.  I am so sorry your mother didn’t do that, for you.”

“No,” my mother said.  “She didn’t.”

*   *   *

Because it’s four days after Groundhog’s Day and four months until the summer solstice, let’s pretend it’s time to Shake Your Groove Thing ® and Get Down With Your Bad Self. © If you are of A Certain Age and can remember the television dance show that featured this song, you are a better Boomer than I.

*   *   *

May you do the right thing come political meetings or tornadoes, and find time for a little groove-thang-shaking, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Which had one of the cutest, most powerful smiles I had ever seen in a baby. I mean, that kid would laser you a grin.

[2] Yeah, I know, fart jokes. Like the Dylan song says, may you stay Forever Young.

[3] No cracks about how it might take a few years to think of such a praise-worthy instance.

[4] This existential moment brought to you by my Nocturnal Brain calls, also mentioned in last week’s post. Hakuna Fritatta, anyone?

[5] Or whatever you do in Minnesota when you get a tornado warning. Stock up on Jell-o-casseroles?

The Generation I’m Not Talkin’ ’bout

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The PG (Parental Guidance) Post 

Dateline: Monday evening, doing my own sous chef preparation before sautéing shallots and Swiss chard.  As I strip the ruby red chard leaves from their stalks, I remember how much my father loved Swiss chard.

*   *   *

 Band of Memories

Chester Bryan Parnell, “These are the good times,” 8-8-1924 to 2-11-2009

I think of my father every day, and mention him often (an easy thing to do, as he was a special character), in part to keep his memory alive for K and Belle.  But when my family sees that I’ve brought out the Band of Brothers DVD box set, they know something extra is in the air.

Today would have been Chester “Chet-the-Jet” Parnell’s 90th birthday.  It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that number.  I’ll let my heart do the binding.

When Chet wanted to relax he would haul out his old Martin guitar. He loved to serenade his kids.  Beautiful, Beautiful Brown Eyes, a traditional country tune covered by singers from Roy Acuff to Rosemary Clooney, was one of the songs Chet used to sing to me at night.

 *   *   *

 My mother is frail;
“I am winding down,” she says.
She is eighty-six.

Widowed five years now;
Her eldest child lives nearby.
I am second-born.

My two other sibs
Live in the Bay Area;
Mom is in So Cal.

Mom loathed to travel,
even when she was healthy.
And, now she cannot.

Twenty-three years plus
I’ve lived one thousand miles north
with my family.

Mom doesn’t do much;
there’s little to talk about.
Calls can be awkward

She always refused
to learn to use computers.
Her children conspired

We got a gadget:
“technically un-inclined”
is its user base.

A “one-way device,”
it receives and prints email
From select sources.

Pro: she gets no spam;
Con: she gets but can’t send mail
(which is fine by her).

I send her brief notes –
a small something for the day
In her morning mail

Mondays are for jokes.
Who wouldn’t like a giggle
To begin the week?

Tuesdays I phone her.
Her moods and health are falling.
Tuesdays make me sad.

Each Wednesday I send
a Word of the Day feature.
(I choose cheerful words).

Thoughts For the Day
from minds famous and obscure,
are Thursday’s items.

Fridays are for Quotes:
adages and citations
to spark mind and heart.

Saturday, poems:
I send different verse styles,
From Browning to Lear.

Every Sunday
I send my mother haiku,
Two verses, or more.

I write them moiself;
thus, they are not quote-worthy.
Silly, but heartfelt.

*   *   *

 A Brief Meditation on Ways to Fail Your Children

Is that a buzz kill subject heading, or what?  If you’re looking for the feel-good post of the week, I suggest returning to the picture of the Swiss chard and using it for a gratitude meditation focal point.

I’m thinking about the many ways my father and mother succeeded, as parents…also, about those ways in which they, and parents in general, failed.

This digression is courtesy of one of my recent morning walk podcast sessions.[1] I was listening to the Freethought Radio interview with the president of a N.O.W. chapter, re activism resulting from the SCOTUS [2] Hobby Lobby decision. This topic was antithetical to the purpose of my morning walks, which are supposed to be somewhat meditative as well as invigorating.  The former purpose took a back seat to ruminative rage as I considered the seemingly unending, fact-free, conservative political and social balloon juice about a woman’s right to right to personal jurisdiction, and other issues that should have been settled so, so, long ago….

And I find myself thinking,

We failed.

We, as in, talkin’ ’bout my generation.

We have failed in so many ways, including imagination.

Thirty years ago, I couldn’t imagine we’d be fighting the same fights. [3]  Sure, a few dinosaur fossils would remain, but I’d hoped that the battle for equality and against sexism and misogyny (at least, in this country) would be history, as in, my son and daughter would learn about it the same way they learned about women’s suffrage (There was a time when women couldn’t vote?!  And it was less than one hundred years ago?!)

I realize that historical milestones are almost never confined to a single day or week…or even era. The campaign for women’s suffrage was not waged and won on August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified.  Nor was the amendment a one-time antidote to the festering, cyclic, boil-on-the-ass-of-human rights that is the tendency for groups of people to oppress those they view as The Other.

 

*   *   *

Power shared = power diminished.

According to one Wise Old White Guy © I had the pleasure of knowing, [4] there is a widely held but false axiom behind bigotry and discrimination. That was the gist of what he tried to explain, one day in our Tuesday morning book group of yore. The group stumbled onto the continuing struggle for civil and women’s rights vis-à-vis religious institutions – a provocative topic for anyone who hasn’t downed their first cup of coffee by 7 am.  I brought up what I saw as the ultimate butt-frosting, teeth-grinding, bloomer-bunching irony: in order to acquire the rights and opportunities that you, say, a woman or African-American, are denied, you have to convince a majority of those in power – the very people who have been denying you those rights – to grant them. [5]

This prompted WOWG to share his “unfortunate observation” regarding human nature:

Few people anywhere have ever easily agreed to share power.

I knew what WOWG meant, but asked him to elaborate.  What follows is my (paraphrased) recollection of his simple but profound Walter Cronkite-ism [6] :

 Power shared = power diminished – this is what people in power believe. But power does not diminish when shared, it multiplies.  Small, stingy, fearful minds don’t understand that – they think power is finite, or is in limited supply, and therefore sharing power with you means there is less of it for them.  This is especially true for those who are (or who see themselves as being) on the lower rungs of the power and status ladders; e.g., some of the fiercest, most vicious criticism of the civil rights movement came from poor white southern men.

He ended with: We failed. Our generation didn’t fix that. Maybe it can’t be fixed; but now, it’s your turn.

 *   *   *

And now, a segue to make us all feel better.

I Am A Bad Person
#359 is a never-ending series

Making travel arrangements for an upcoming family wedding, my brain did that thing it does, and conjured up a memory from a friend’s wedding, several years ago.  I was talking to a teenager at the wedding reception. When I asked her about the rather sour look on her face, she complained to me about how “old people at weddings always poke me in the ribs and say, ‘You’re next!’ “

I told her she could get revenge by saying the same to them at funerals.

 

“I’m sure she means, next in line for the buffet.”

*   *   *

Spam subject line of the week:
IF  YOU  DON’T  READ  THIS  NOW  YOU’LL  HATE  YOURSELF  LATER !!!

I didn’t read it “now” (or at all).

It is later.

I don’t hate myself.

Ergo, it must be my turn for an all-caps-three-exclam-attack:


VICTORY IS MINE !!!

Mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha !!!

*   *   *

 

 

May you always be next in line for life’s buffet, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] During my morning walks I listen to podcasts of some of my favorite radio shows, including Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Freakonomics, RadioLab, This American Life, TED Talks, Fresh Air, and Freethought Radio.

[2] Which, yes, oft times seems as if it should be the acronym for Sexist Codgers (and not Supreme Court) of the United States.

[3] Only with different, and often troll-enabling – technologies.

[4] WOWG lost a brief but fierce battle with leukemia ~ 10 years ago.

[5] I remember, a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, trying to explain to my kids, who were dealing with fledgling democracy concepts in school, how women couldn’t vote to give themselves the vote.

[6] “And that’s the way it is.”

[7] Wait a minute…there is no seventh footnote.

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